Currently available on pre-order via the Tilt payment platform, the Navdy device enables a person to view smartphone notifications safely while driving a car, by using a projector which displays text on a transparent screen in his/her field of vision.

Smartphone functionality displayed in the car driver’s field of vision

As long ago as 2011 Peugeot began offering on three of its vehicle series a transparent retractable screen which displays in the driver’s field of vision useful information designed to improve driving. Among other data, it shows your current speed and warns you if you are driving too close to the car in front for safety. Now such Head-Up Displays (HUDs) are entering a new phase with Navdy, made by a Californian startup of the same name, which offers a wide range of tools and an excellent display which makes the information seem to float around some two metres in front of the driver. Drawing inspiration from aeroplane display systems, the device is designed to ensure greater safety at the wheel.  The sales argument is that this new HUD does more to help the driver stay focused on the road while interacting with the displayed information.

Making interactivity and safety compatible behind the wheel?

Navdy has some original features which represent an advance over the in-car HUDs developed by automobile manufacturers. You simply sit the Navdy on the dashboard and connect it to the car’s OBD-II port, which provides both a power source and access to the car’s diagnostics. The added value of Navdy however is the fact that it links up with the driver’s smartphone via Bluetooth. It also has a WiFi connection, an infrared camera to enable touchless gesture control, and a microphone and sound receiver, which make it easy to receive telephone calls and text messages without the driver needing to turn his/her head away from the road ahead. Using the camera, the driver interacts with the system by using simple gestures such as swiping his/her hand to the right or the left, or a giving a thumbs-up sign, which allow him/her to answer calls or switch on music.

Facing up to the reality of smartphone use by drivers

Given the fact that drivers are tempted to use their smartphones while behind the wheel, the entire system has been designed to avoid drivers having to take their eyes off the road, as often happens. With this in mind, the Navdy developers have made it compatible with all kinds of apps, such as Google Maps, Google Now and iPhone voice recognition system Siri, which the user can select. While current HUD systems are usually pre-installed in the vehicle, Navdy can be fitted into any car – from one point of view a convenience but which might nevertheless be thought by some to increase the risk of theft. It is also a fairly expensive item, priced at $500 (€375) after the close of the pre-order period, so it might be a good idea to unplug it and put it away safely when you park the vehicle. This idea of messaging and information being available at all times, which means looking at a fixed point in your field of vision and thinking about something other than the road head while driving, looks like rekindling the smouldering debate over driver concentration. But at least with Navdy the driver does not need to move his/her head.


By Lucie Frontière